This is me with my first bike. Just kidding. It's my second bike. But my favorite bike of all was a lime-green metal-flake Schwinn Stingray with gooseneck handlebars, a white banana seat, sissy bar with red reflector, and a treadless rear tire that let you lay a brodie 10 feet long. Unfortunately, it belonged to my sister. That's the memory that stirs in me as we approach all the events set for Bike Month in May.
The modern bicycle was invented by father-son carriage-makers Pierre and Ernest Michaux in 1861, according to many historians, which would make this the 150th anniversary of the first pedal-and-crank velocipede. (I seem to be the only one who has noted this year's sesquicentennial importance. Seems a shame to overlook such a historic event.) To celebrate Bike Month, most states and major cities are sponsoring bike-related events, including a five-borough bike tour in New York City on May 1; Bike-to-Work Week nationwide, May 16-20; and Chicago's Bike the Drive on May 29. You can find other events at the League of American Bicyclists.
Bike Month may not start until May 1, but beginning April 25 Schwinn, the bicycle manufacturer, will do its part to encourage biking with its Bike It Forward campaign. Visit the Schwinn website, enter the name of a friend who doesn't own a bike, choose the type of bike you think they'd like, and check back to see if you've won. Schwinn will be giving away two bikes a day through May 31.
If you want to be transported to a more pleasant world, watch this 1950 instructional film on bicycle safety (and notice that none of the kids ever wears a helmet!).
For those of you still killing time at work, here are some things you almost definitely didn't know about bicycles:
* 87 million Americans ride bicycles.
* Based on gas prices of $3 per gallon, the annual cost of owning, operating, and driving a car 15,000 miles is nearly $11,000. The cost of maintaining a bike is about $120 a year. Plus it doesn't leave oil stains on your driveway. Plus wouldn't it be nice if gas was still $3 a gallon?
* More than 51,000 New Yorkers took up bicycling last year, many of them on their own bicycles.
* You burn 500 calories an hour biking, the equivalent of a McDonald's 7.7-ounce Big N' Tasty With Cheese.
* You can park 15 bikes in one car space. Or seven bikes and one unicycle in half a car space.
Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure.